I dove into my study abroad experience with little to no expectations. I wasn’t much of a traveler before studying with IES Abroad in Rome – I had been to Canada and Italy with my family before but can’t remember much about my experiences. I was too young to appreciate my surroundings, and, to be totally candid, family vacations aren’t exactly the kind of travel adventures a tween romanticizes later in life.
And so, with my limited knowledge of travel and growing knowledge of Italian culture and language in college, I decided to go to Rome and embark on my own whimsical adventure abroad.
I could tell you a million cliché phrases that encapsulate my experience abroad, so I’m just going to say this: I learned, I grew, I saw, and I lived – oh, how I lived! Every day was an adventure. I lived near the Vatican, so walking to school every day meant fighting through crowds of tourists while simultaneously drinking in the beauty of Rome on my daily passing of Saint Peter’s and the Castel Sant’Angelo. The men selling selfie-sticks on the bridge in front of the Castel began to recognize me and, eventually, the bridge became a second home where I would read between classes and meet friends for a night out. In fact, the entire city of Rome became home towards the end of my program. I was able to off-handedly identify hills, landmarks, and monuments, as well as streets and random history about the socio-political framework of the city. My daily wanderings around Rome, combined with weekend adventures, in-class lectures by brilliant professors, and my internship with an Italian film company, deepened my appreciation and knowledge of Rome – and Italy as a whole – with regards to art, culture, geography, sociology, politics, and language.
My comfort with living in Rome helped me explore places outside of the city, starting with peripheral neighborhoods like Garbatella and San Lorenzo, and eventually branching out to other regions of Italy. For spring break, I took a leap of maturity and went to Turkey and Greece with my friends, which is something tween Adrienne never saw coming. Come March, I was booking my own travels, making my own itineraries, and researching new places to explore. After my program ended, I visited different parts of England and Sicily before finally returning back to the states.
Being abroad raised my confidence to levels I never knew I could reach. Exploring, making new (amazing/lifelong) friends, immersing myself in a different culture and language, and working hard in my IES courses showed me that I am both my greatest tool and obstacle. If I choose to live in ignorance, so be it. However, if I choose to educate myself, break out of my comfort zone, and stay curious, I am unstoppable.
After studying abroad, the world has become smaller and less intimidating -- though infinitely more interesting.